Arrow: Leap of Faith

"I need to know my family is safe."

Wow. That was unexpected.

This episode gives context to Oliver’s emotional arc of last week. Which still boils down to will my sacrifice ensure the safety of my family and by extension the universe. After seeing the destruction of Earth-2, Oliver made the calculation that blind devotion to The Monitor’s cause was the best way to ensure his planet’s survival.

I’ve watched last week’s episode multiple times and I’m still not sure when Oliver’s calculation changed. However, it is now clear that Oliver is no longer prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in the hope that his family will be spared. He wants a guarantee. Thus his pilgrimage to Nanda Parbat.

His search for answers leads to a reunion with his sister, his mentor and sometime enemy, and a fun-filled and potentially deadly scavenger hunt. It seems discovering the answer to Oliver’s questions comes with the added bonus of The League’s version of a Sword of Destiny. Whoever wields it has the right to command The League. This complication leads to Athena and the Thanatos Guild’s pursuit and Talia’s inevitable betrayal. The sword is located, Talia eventually yields to Thea’s authority and Athena appears to have met her fate. And while Thea offers to help Oliver in his quest, he declines, leaving her free to remake the League into a band of heroes rather than assassins.

I know I blew through that plot summary at lightning speed but the plot was somewhat beside the point. The important thing is that Mar Novu may be the cause rather than the salvation of the multiverse.  This will obviously have repercussions for both the crossover and the remainder of the season.

The other topic at hand is the resolution of Oliver and Thea’s relationship. I say resolution because it is clear that Oliver believes this is the last time that he will see his sister. And given the current stakes and the fact that he had just come from a world where her death was due in part to his absence, his protective tendencies are on overdrive.

Thea is having none of it. I doubt she truly believes Oliver’s fate is preordained. However, she does believe that trying to change the future is a fool’s errand. And making decisions from a place of fear leads to the kinds of choices their parents made legendary.

Oliver and Thea’s discussion mirrors Mia and William’s. After growing up fatherless and being estranged from her mother, William is the only family Mia has left. And she is loath to put him at risk under any circumstances. This is the flip side of the argument she made against Connor’s leadership. His desire to redeem his brother JJ compromised his decision making just as Mia’s desire to keep William safe compromises hers.

Instead of allowing William to serve as bait for a carefully laid trap, Mia insists on taking on the Deathstrokes on their home turf knowing that her team was vastly outnumbered. This decision indirectly causes Zoe’s death at JJ's hands.

Which brings us to the final set of siblings. Connor and JJ’s relationship feels like a replay of Diggle’s and Andy’s. Like their older counterpart, it consists of the straight-arrow (no pun intended) trying to redeem his criminal brother. Dig and Andy’s conflict played out over the course of the season and ended when Dig felt he had to choose between his family’s safety and the life of his brother. Here Connor is forced to make a similar choice. Zoe may not be blood but she was family and her death represented Connor’s personal Rubicon. Had he not been interrupted, I believe he would have killed JJ.

The theme of fear and risk is continued through Lyla and Diggle’s mission to save a young Connor Hawke and his mother, Sandra. Considering Connor’s future status as Lyla and Dig’s adopted son I spent much of the episode in fear for Sandra’s life but that’s not the fear in question. Throughout the series, neither Lyla nor Diggle has had serious qualms about putting their lives on the line in the course of their “duty.” Whether that was on the battlefield in Afghanistan, protecting Star City as Spartan, or the covert interests of the United States as part of A.R.G.U.S. This continued even after the birth of their daughter turned son John Jr.

Like Oliver, seeing the destruction of Earth 2 has left Diggle shaken. He may have no issues about leaping into the fray when necessary but he’s become risk-averse about Lyla following suit. And like Thea and William, Lyla reminds Dig that being afraid is no reason to avoid doing the right thing.

This is a fascinating argument considering Lyla’s potential dueling loyalties. As I said last week, I’ve never doubted her intentions. She clearly loves her family but her comment to Diggle about remembering the good times suggests that she believes her relationship Diggle may be the cost of doing business with Mar Novu. On a side note, Lyla Michaels AKA Harbinger’s comic origins include being rescued by The Monitor as a child and becoming his assistant. Just sayin'.

Which brings us to that ending. And what an ending it was. In some ways, I feel like we should have seen it coming. Oliver’s mission has always been to save his city and as I stated repeatedly last season, the flash-forwards proved that he ultimately failed. At the time I had argued for a Flashpoint-like do-over. I hated the idea that the show would end with Oliver’s defeat both from a narrative and a purely personal perspective. It appears the coming Crisis may grant me my do-over wish.

Additionally, it provides the familial closure we’ve wanted and thought was impossible. It grants William the opportunity to finally understand Oliver’s decision to leave him with his grandparents and for Mia to meet her Dad. And if we’re really lucky, then maybe Zoe’s fate and JJ journey towards The Dark Side can be averted. One can dream.

Knowing that this is the final season allows The Powers That Be to pull out all the stops. I heartily approve.

4 out of 5 phoenix references.

Parting Thoughts

This episode was directed by Katie Cassidy. Props!

Structurally, the series reviews are not adhering strictly to an episode per season look back. Oliver’s journey to Nanda Parbat reflects the League of Assassins storyline of season three. However, Lyla and Diggle’s exploits directly reference the events from season two’s "Suicide Squad."

I loved the call back to Thea going under the name Mia. And for those of you who don’t follow comic book lore fanatically, Mia Dearden was one of several characters to take on the mantle of Speedy. FYI, Moira’s maiden name was Dearden and Thea’s legal name is Thea Dearden Queen.

I also loved that Mia has picked up Felicity's curse word of choice.

We now know that all the Lazarus pits have been destroyed. Nyssa, now freed from all League obligations, has retired to Thailand or some destination unknown. We also learned that after returning to Thea and explaining what had happened, Roy went off to deal with his demons (To Lian Yu perchance?).

Quotes:

Thea "We've kind of killed off every League member, haven't we?"
Oliver: "I can think of one more."

Lyla: "I need you with me, John."
Diggle: Must be really important if you call me John."

Thea: "OK, well this place isn't the least bit creepy."

Zoe: "We can't let fear dictate our strategy."

Oliver: "Speedy, you just read Arabic."
Thea: "You speak Russian."

Lyla: "What's really going on here? You've never been one to shy away from risk."
Diggle: "I've never seen a world just disintegrate in front of my face."

Talia: "Fate does not care what we believe we are owed."

Oliver: "I thought I told you to stay at the camp."
Thea: "You did. It looks like I didn't ignore you soon enough."

William: "You have ever heard about patience being a virtue?"
Mia: "Since when have I ever cared about virtue?"

Thea: "I thought you said this was the hard part."
Oliver: "Don't get cocky."

Talia: "Apparently, this day isn't going the way either of us planned."

Diggle: "I missed watching you kick ass."

Thea: "If he failed to keep the balance between good and evil, this god would bring forth the end of times."

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

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